Holy See, Bosnia and Herzegovina Ratify Agreement

Prelate: Accord Shows Respect for Religious Freedom

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- This week delegates from the Holy See and Bosnia and Herzegovina exchanged instruments of ratification regarding an agreement allowing for religious assistance to Catholic members of that country’s Armed Forces.

The agreement was signed April 8 in Sarajevo by Archbishop Alessandro D’Errico, apostolic nuncio to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that country’s Minister of Defense, Selmo Cikotic.

On Tuesday, a ceremony was held at the Vatican to exchange the instruments of ratification. On that day, the agreement came into effect.

The ceremony was attended by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Benedict XVI’s secretary of state, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states, and Sven Alkalaj, foreign minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In an address at the ceremony, Archbishop Mamberti noted that this step «confirms the excellent relations that exist between the Holy See and Bosnia and Herzegovina,» Vatican Radio reported.

He affirmed that this agreement «is the fruit of the Holy See’s commitment for peace, the development of peoples, human rights and particularly for religious freedom.»

The prelate said that this accord will also «benefit the country’s image internationally, presenting Bosnia and Herzegovina as a nation, where despite difficulties, due respect is given to democratic principles, human rights and religious freedom.»

Archbishop Mamberti expressed the hope that this step will «inspire sentiments of reciprocal understanding and fruitful collaboration between churches and religious communities for the good of the country, at this delicate stage in its history.»

This accord is the first important implementation of the basic agreement between the two parties, which was signed on April 19, 2006.

Among other things, the 2006 document defines the juridical framework of the presence and activities of the Catholic Church in the country.

Article 15 of that agreement recognizes and guarantees the right of the Catholic Church to give religious assistance to Catholic faithful members of the Armed Forces.

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